Simple Ways to be a Courteous New Yorker
It’s easy to hate on tourists. But remember: those map-scanning, bewildered-looking folks came to your city out of a desire to expand their world. They might not expand it past the M&M store in Times Square, but they tried.
So, while there’s a lot that tourists need to know, it doesn’t hurt for New Yorkers to brush up on some basics. And since most of us are tourists who never left, much of the following should be applied when dealing with your fellow New Yorkers, as well. Follow these and make every day Common Courtesy Day!
- LISTEN TO A TOURIST’S QUESTION. THEN ANSWER IT. If someone asks, “How do I get to the 1 train?” and you answer by asking, “Where are you trying to go?” and then proceed to reroute them, you are not helping. You are instead compensating for your own feelings of impotence by disempowering someone in a vulnerable position and imprinting your will on theirs like psychological branding. Part of the fun of visiting a city is figuring out how it works. Let them have that! Making a wrong turn is not the same as waking up naked in the woods with no memory of who you are or where you’re going. Chances are, the person asking the question knows what information they need – say, how to get to the 1 train – so you might as well give them that information. If they have no idea where they are going or what they are doing, they will ask a more open-ended question like, “Where am I going?” or, “What am I doing?” and you should answer accordingly.
DON’T PRETEND YOU KNOW MORE THAN YOU DO. New York is changing all the time. Even if you’ve been shut up like a monk, studying maps, manuals, and websites to understand the workings of this great metropolis, by the time you know the last of it, the first thing you learned will be outdated. There is no shame in saying, “I don’t know.” Conversely, there is no prize for telling the most people the most stuff (and, even if there were, I’m sure accuracy would figure into the judging). This goes not just for directions, but for hours, procedures, paperwork, norms, etc. You are not doing someone a favor by telling them that The Whitney is free on Tuesdays (it’s not, it’s actually closed on Tuesdays, I just checked), or that same-day Hamilton tickets are half-price for anyone who shows up a half hour before curtain holding a bag of human teeth.
- APPRECIATE THAT OTHER PLACES CAN BE NICE, TOO. We can all agree that New York is better than everywhere else. So there’s no need to remind visitors. In fact, their visit is a strong indicator that they are already sympathetic to the idea. You actually risk changing that by expressing open contempt for the place where they still get their mail. Yes, it’s great that food from all over the world is commonplace here, but Lenexa, Kansas is not necessarily a pre-industrial wasteland just because they don’t have a Kati Roll food cart (it might be, I’ve never been there).
- SLOW THE EFF DOWN. Visitors ambling six abreast down the sidewalk ooohing and aaahing at the big buildings are annoying. But yelling at them, pushing them, and pretending you have somewhere to be (who are you kidding? The Starbucks where you’ll spend an hour scrolling through Facebook isn’t going anywhere), will not change them or do you any credit. Just go around, don’t mutter under your breath, and be thankful you live in a place that has so much to see that you want to walk fast.
- DON’T STAND IN THE SUBWAY DOOR. Just don’t. This is less tourist-focused but no less true. No good comes to you from doing it and it creates a lot of problems for everyone else. It is a perfect metaphor for New York, making this a Meta-tip: The city is like a subway car, with people coming and going as they move toward their individual destinations. By standing in the doorway, you slow the train down because the doors can’t close until everyone who wants to has gotten on or off. You are doing this because you are an asshole; a myopic, self-centered, asshole. But it is in your interest to stop being an asshole – to be less myopic and self-centered – because if you move into the car and stop blocking the doorway (metaphorically by following these tips, and literally by just moving into the car) everyone will get on and off more quickly and you – YOU – will benefit because the train will more quickly bring you to your destination. And while that’s probably just your apartment literally, metaphorically it’s Nirvana.